The supreme commander of Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, announced on Tuesday that peace talks with Colombia’s government announced in June last year are close to being formalized.
The ELN (National Liberation Army) is the less high-profile of Colombia’s two main guerrilla groups, the other being the FARC.
It has been involved in Colombia’s armed conflict since it started in 1964, and announced informal peace talks with the government in June 2014, five days before the reelection of President Juan Manuel Santos.
ELN chief Nicolas Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Gabino,” said on a rebel radio station that the exploratory phase of talks with the government is very close to being formalized
“I am optimistic and calculate that [the informal talks] have advanced by 85 to 90% in the agenda that has been agreed with the government. We are very close to starting the public phase,” Gabino said.
“There are mature and intelligent people who want to strengthen the peace process,” the ELN leader added.
According to La FM radio, the government has denied that it is close to beginning formal peace talks with the guerrilla group.
In a letter addressed to the National Search for Peace July, the ELN reportedly expressed the necessity for a bilateral ceasefire with the government.
“We share with the FARC an important condition to advance in the search for peace, which is the effective participation of society and the existence of political guarantees to arrive at a position that puts an end to criminality.”
On their webpage the ELN states that they are committed to a peace process in which their members will not be “impoverished, criminalized and persecuted so that they can become political actors.”
The ELN has been at war with the Colombian state since its formation in 1964. If the group is able to formalize talks with the Santos administration, they will coincide with talks held with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.